By George Bita
You cannot miss this tree if you take the Jinja â€“ Tororo highway. For more than 100 years, it has been hanging over the highway, about two kilometres from Bugiri town.
Many road users instinctively glance upwards expecting the tree to collapse on them any minute. But the huge tree rather miraculously keeps its bloodcurdling posture, with branches that extend from one side of the road to the other, forming a canopy over the tarmac.
The tree is located in Ndifakulya village, which means â€˜I will die of eating.â€™
Interestingly, none of the locals here was alive by the time it began growing on Mzee Izizingaâ€™s land. 80-year-old Mesuramu Kulaga, says by the time he was born, this Mukunhu plant (Phycus sur) was already there.
â€œWhen I was a toddler, it had branches in all directions and by then, even this road had not yet been tarmacked. In the 1970s some brick-makers cut off several branches on one side for heating bricks.â€
Kulaga believes that the tree is bent over the road because one side was left with many branches. He adds that the angle at which it rests over the road has inconvenienced a section of motorists especially heavy truck drivers with â€˜wide loads.â€™
â€œTrucks carrying other vehicles at times have to offload them to prevent them from being damaged by the branches,â€ he adds.
Juma Kipchoge, a truck driver who uses the roadoften says: â€œMbaaya saanaâ€ (It is very bad or dangerous). He fears that it poses a risk to road users and feels it had better be chopped down before tragedy strikes. â€œSuch a tree cannot be left to grow over the road like that. It is even awkward to find traffic cops standing under it while on duty instead of having it cut down.â€
He argues that with an anthill growing at the base of the tree, its general support structure is compromised significantly.
Phiona Nakato says: â€œI close my eyes whenever am passing under that tree and pray that God holds it in place until I am at a safe distance away.â€
For Gilbert Kintu, it reminds him of the neglected electric poles adjacent to Namboole Stadium in Kampala that collapsed on vehicles recently. â€When that tree finally comes down, accusations and counter-accusations will start flying. How I wish Ugandans learnt that a stitch in time saves nine.â€
However, Kulaga expects the tree to be around for a much longer time as it has eluded several storms that brought down bigger trees.
â€Strong winds only sway it from side to side while other plants fall over. It is our miracle tree of Ndifakulya,â€ he says.